My wife informed me of a new NPR contest of the type that I enjoy. I have also had success with this type. They give a first line and then ask you to write the rest. Usually these things are 2000 words but NPR wants to be able to read it in less than three minutes so you're limited to six hundred words.
The contest is by "All Things Considered" and this is number eight in the series. The first line is:
"She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door."
The judge is Luis Alberto Urrea. Most people are probably familiar with his novel, "The Hummingbird's Daughter". The entry deadline is March 25th. Here is a link: http://tinyurl.com/77zdppj
Although I don't always write something for these contests, I enjoy playing with these first lines. I find them stimulating and rewarding. As Urrea tells Guy Raz, the show's host, 'finally' carries a sense of infinity, a decision made. What was the decision? What's on the door's other side?
This is also an exercise I play with myself to stimulate my thinking. Pick up a favorite short story or novel and read the first line, and then imagine what I can do with it. For example, "Through the small tall bathroom window the December yard is gray and scratchy, the tree calligraphic." This is the first line from Dave Egger's "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genuis".
The science fiction writer in me especially loves these things. I like to try to turn things on its head. Addressing "All Things Considered" and their contest, is the door to a younger self brought forward into the future, an older self visiting from the past, an old lover brought back from the dead, a teleporter to another era, a door into another dimension. Maybe it's a combination of all these things - she is one of three and is merging with a younger self and an older self to try life again in another dimension where she has the chance to go back to one point, and she's going to meet an old lover, the love of her life, to end her questions of 'what if' and try again. So many possibilities exist, it's delightful to contemplate them all.
Of course, you only have six hundred words to tell the story. That's the true challenge.
Hope some of you find it as challenging as me to play with these ideas and find a story to tell.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com